Lesson 14

Lesson 14: BHFM and The Stoic Advisor

Weekly Habits for Success - Daily Task to The Habits for Success

Many years ago, back in the mid-90s, I had a client named Charlie. Charlie loved his work and never wanted to retire. His wife, Mary, had a different plan. She wanted to move from Missouri to Arizona and retire in a full-service senior community. When Charlie turned 70, Mary finally won and got him to retire and move to Arizona.

Charlie was not happy about this at first. He was worried that he’d wither away and die from a lack of things to do. But Charlie didn’t wither and die. He chose a different path. He chose to become a student all over again. You see, Charlie was a professor and had a PhDs in physics and engineering. He was a smart man, to say the least. After much thought, Charlie decided he wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Well, to be fair, he wanted to learn more than a few chords - not just play the guitar, he wanted to become a classical guitarist with advanced finger-picking skills.

Apparently, this is a difficult style of guitar to master. But Charlie threw himself into learning it… at age 71.

Charlie made a decision that changed his life. He got pretty good on the guitar, not great, but pretty good. He also decided to learn how to golf so he could spend more time with his wife and even joined a club in the senior community to learn a foreign language (I believe he joined the Italian club).

So why am I telling you this? Because it’s time for you to follow in the path of the ancient stoics and give yourself the gift of learning something new.

I am reminded of a poem that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow read in 1875 at the fifty-year reunion of Bowdain College. He started his talk with a quote from the Roman poet, Ovid: “Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis, Et fugiunt freno non remorante dies.” (“The times slip away, and we grow old with silent years, and the days flee unchecked by a rein”).

He then read 15 stanzas expressing the beauty of the relentless passing of time to his classmates, who, although all old men by that point, still had time on their side. Here are a few of those stanzas:

It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,
When each had numbered more than fourscore years,
Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales,
At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales;
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Completed Faust when eighty years were past.
How far the gulf-stream of our youth may flow
Into the arctic regions of our lives,
Where little else than life itself survives.

You see, time is on our side, if we use the time we have wisely.

Marcus Aurelius, possibly the greatest emperor of Rome, was roundly ridiculed for attending the lectures of Sextus on philosophy. He certainly had more important things to do instead of listening to Sextus lecture on philosophy. But Marcus disagreed. “Learning is a good thing, even for one who is growing old. From Sextus the philosopher I shall learn what I do not yet know.” Marcus said that in his 40’s. He wrote the masterpiece, “Meditations” in his 50’s.

Epictetus was a slave until he was 30 years old. But he somehow found the time to sit at the feet of Musonius Rufus after Musonius returned from exile.

Even as a freed man with a crippled leg, Epictetus continued to strive to learn from those around him. He became so popular as a philosopher that Domitian the emperor feared for his throne and sent Epictetus off into exile.

Yet, even in exile, Epitetus continued to work and learn. “What is exile?” Epictetus said. “Being somewhere other than Rome?”

Epictetus was a man devoted to the craft of learning, no matter his station in life. Whether a slave or in exile, he used his time wisely.

So, for today’s new habit, we are going to focus on something FUN! We want you to learn something new. We don’t care what it is. Just go learn it until you master it to the best of your ability. If you try learning something and it turns out you don’t like it, feel free to change to something else until you find something that you like.

Then you make that skill your lifetime pursuit and seek to master it to the greatest extent that you can. Will you learn the guitar like Charlie or try to learn another language? Maybe you’d like to take up chess or learn how to play golf or tennis.

Maybe you’d like to take up exercising or delve into philosophy or some other academic subject. Maybe you’d like to write or taking singing lessons. What if you and your spouse do what Hugh Jackman and his wife do every morning over a cup of coffee - find a good book and read to each other.

Find yourself a teacher or coach to train you. Maybe it’s a YouTube channel or one of the language courses on MOOC, MIT, or Udemy. There are so many options in today’s world of free or practically free information.

Once you land on a subject and a teacher/coach, then attack that subject in 15-minute chunks every single day. Sure, if you pick golf or chess you might only have an hour lesson once per week with a golf pro or a chess grandmaster, but that doesn’t prevent you from practicing at least once per day for 15 minutes.

Set what I refer to as “mini-milestones” to monitor your performance in your new endeavor. Keep track of it on your Excel spreadsheet. By the way, if your Excel spreadsheet is getting too wide, maybe you need to learn about how to create different tabs on the Excel sheet to separate your performance metrics.

No matter how much you think you know, there’s always something new to learn. We’ve been taught by the great philosophers and other great men that you’re never to old to learn. Winston Churchill wrote 40 books, painted more than 500 pieces of art, and learned how to be a bricklayer when he was older.

Chris Bosh retired from the NBA and decided to teach himself how to code.

All these people were busy with life but still found time to do things that enriched their minds and spirits. This enrichment was key to making them better at all things in their lives. You want to be a better financial advisor? Become good at doing things that have nothing to do with financial services.

Why is this important? Because the process of rewiring your brain takes time and effort… effort that is put forth not just in the area of financial services, but in all areas of your life. Rewire your brain to focus on personal growth in all areas of your life and in everything that you encounter.

Your brain understands that, “The way you do anything, is the way you do everything”.

I can assure you that if you follow our advice and do what we tell you to do, you will not only build the exact business you want and become the Mega-Producer you always wanted to be, but you will cultivate happiness and success in all aspects of your life. The advice we’re giving you today does just that:

  • On a physiological level, learning new things is good for your brain. According to Behavioral and Systems Neuroscientist Tracey J. Shors, learning new skills bolsters cognitive functioning. Learning sparks a process called neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, keeping the brain healthy and active, which is particularly important as we age.
  • Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, conducted a study, randomly assigning 200 older people to learn a new skill, compared to a “social group” assigned to engage in fun activities like watching movies or playing easy games and puzzles. The groups spent 15 hours a week for three months engaged in their assigned activity. The results? “Sustained engagement in cognitively demanding, novel activities enhances memory function in older adulthood, but, somewhat surprisingly, we found limited cognitive benefits of sustained engagement in social activities.”
  • According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, happiness and learning are connected. Best known for coining the psychological concept of flow in his seminal work Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi says of learning new things: “the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
  • In a 2017 article in The Atlantic, Scott Kaufman explains how children with “gifted curiosity”—an inherent ability to seek out further learning experiences - 'outperformed their peers on a wide range of educational outcomes, including math and reading, SAT scores, and college attainment.” In other words, those students who were predisposed to seek out new things to learn tended to perform better in other realms, too.

If taking the time to learn and gain expertise in a variety of subjects worked so well for the ancient philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca, Cato, Marcus Aurelius, why would it not work for you?

Becoming good at other things will help you become great at what is most important to you. Increase your “range” of learning and you will rewire your brain and re-forge it in the fires of greatness.

NEW HABIT: Find something that you would enjoy doing and begin doing it for at least 15 minutes every day.

NEW TASK: Find a tutor, teacher, coach, or mentor to help you get good at your new habit.